Cycling set the bar so high in 2014
Bicycles are a common means of transport in rural areas. But out of this common practice, cycling as sport was born and it has quickly become one of the most popular sports in the country.
The launch of the Africa Rising Cycling Centre (ARCC) in March, a three-acre compound in Musanze with 18 buildings became the home of Team Rwanda accommodating riders for training camps, staff and volunteers.
Notably, Team Rwanda got a spacious home where they can train without any destruction, where the riders not only perfect their cycling but also learn English in a comfortable environment.
With a state-of-the-art garage, expert mechanics like American Jamie Bissell and Jean de Dieu ‘Rafiki’ Uwimana have been an integral part of Team Rwanda’s success in 2014. The previous space limited development, hosting and training other international teams. On top of fulfilling all the aforementioned, ARCC has laid the foundation of a sustainable financial support system through bicycle tourism. Tourists can now hire bikes at an affordable fee of $75 with a guide.
In May, Rwanda was represented by two girls and four boys at the African Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana and consequently, the girls competed at the second edition of the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China becoming the first Rwandans to compete at the biggest international youth multi-sport event.
Last year’s best young rider Jean Bosco Nsengimana and Stage 2 winner Valens Ndayisenga at the Tour du Rwanda were invited to train at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
Bonaventure Uwizeyimana, the first Rwandan to win a stage at the gruesome La Tropicale Amissa Bongo in Gabon in January, was racing in France for Vendee U, the feeder team for Europcar. For the second time, Rwanda was represented at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games and in Glasgow, Scotland in August, Rwanda sent four riders including Adrien Niyonshuti, Janvier Hadi, Ndayisenga, Uwizeyimana, Gasore Hategeka and Nsengimana. Hadi finished 19th while Ndayisenga was 23rd in the individual time trial. For the first time in the history of Rwandan cycling, three Rwandan riders qualified for the UCI U-23 World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain.
Ndayisenga, Nsengimana and Uwizeyimana who had been in Europe for several months, competed at this prestigious event carrying the Rwandan flag high.
In September, Janvier Hadi was invited as a guest rider for Garneau Quebecor at the Tour of Alberta and won the Most Aggressive Rider on Stage 4, while working in a breakaway for the majority of the stage. In terms of sponsorship, Team Rwanda signed a sponsorship deal with Turkish Airlines as the official carrier of Team Rwanda. Voted Europe’s best airline, Turkish Airlines offered a 40% discount on air travel and free baggage for the team’s luggage which reduces a remarkable load off their budget.
Team Rwanda spends a huge amount of money on travel and training camps are the biggest expenses for the team so this partnership came in handy and this will be very important this year as the riders will be eyeing participation in several elite competitions in Africa and overseas. To cap a successful year, the Tour du Rwanda left behind memories that will forever be celebrated by the entire country and well wishers of Rwandan cycling across the world.
Last year’s event was the sixth edition of the 2.2 UCI sanctioned event and just like in 2013, Hadi won the prologue and Ndayisenga won Stage 2, from his hometown Rwamagana to Team Rwanda’s hometown Musanze.
Joseph Biziyaremye, the first Rwandan to win a stage of the Tour du Rwanda back in 2011, won Stage 6 and Nsengimana finished second in the General Classification. For the first time since the Tour du Rwanda made its inception on the UCI Africa calendar, a Rwandan had the yellow jersey throughout the eight-day grueling competition that attracted 14 countries including Belgium, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Germany, Morocco, South Africa and three Rwandan sides – Karisimbi, Muhabura and Akagera.